Coogler. Coogler had multiple archiveable films before the age of 30 (born 1986). His debut is a magnificent indie drama, he’s made the best Rocky franchise film possibly ever (and at least since 1976) and he has given us the greatest film in the MCU. Coogler usually sets his film, or characters, in Oakland, works with Michael B. Jordan and knows how to effortlessly glide the camera around like he’s the second coming of Renoir or Ophuls. He has two films that land in the top 100 of their respective decade- I only have two more of those directors remaining and neither matches Coogler’s cinematic abilities. I wish we’d absolutely see him cut loose and just put together a stylistic exercise in a film— but in both Creed and Black Panther there are flourishes/scenes of some of their year’s best cinema.

in both Creed and Black Panther (here) there are flourishes/scenes of some of their year’s best cinema

Best film: Creed

  • Coogler’s second archiveable film under the age of 30
  • Coogler’s direction and screenplay touches and uses the iconography, archetypes and clichés but executives it all so flawlessly
  • Fruitvale Station announced the arrival and both Coogler as a potential (now fully realized) auteur and Michael B. Jordan as a major star- but if there were doubts or trepidation- those are long gone now after seeing Creed
  • The great oner- shot in the fight between Jordan and Gabe Rosados “Leo ‘The Lion’”
  • I think it challenges the original Rocky for the best film in the series and for the best performance of Stallone’s career—it is, without a doubt, the best directed Rocky– film
  • Again, clichés- training montages and battling cancer, a man with father issues—and Coogler pulls it off and sticks the landing
  • Along with Coogler and Jordan—who could be the best director and actor on the planet in 5-10 years—Tessa Thompson feels like she could be a generational talent- she’s hypnotic- powerful, intelligent- not hyperbole
  • Plenty of montages- Coogler breathes life into them though
  • Still- 45 minutes in the film doesn’t feel too entirely special- it’s back-loaded with the greatness
  • Again- credit to Coogler and the actors but cheese or hokey likes like “you can’t learn anything when you’re talking” coming from Stallone here work
  • The oner- detailed- Tessa is in the background for part of it- it’s 4-5 minutes—and it totally enhances the experience- anyone who says these shots are only for film buffs is flat wrong
  • The premise- and idea behind Jordan getting a title shot is very believable
  • Sorry to Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies (Oscar winner) but Stallone gives the greater supporting performance in 2015
  • I don’t think much of Stallone as an actor overall and has an embarrassingly few archiveable films in his long career—much of it as a major star—but the scene of him taking the news that he has cancer should be shown to an acting class
  • Tough not to be hooked into the fighting cancer montage
  • The 365 shot in the locker room shot—just prior to the title fight—then you have 2pac’s “Hail Mary” with Stallone’s hand on his shoulder as he walks to and around the ring— wow—then you go to Conlan’s entrance with the fire breathing—
  • There’s a small nod to Scorsese and Raging Bull when the lights turn out in the ring and Coogler slows it down—
  • Strong mini-montage of Jordan’s past and state of mind when getting up from a knockout—then you have the “I gotta prove I’m not a mistake” gut-wrenching line
  • Smart narrative move to have him lose just like the original Rocky
  • Overall Coogler goes for it- montages, red/white/blue trucks, crowd chanting “Creed”

total archiveable films: 3

top 100 films:  0

top 500 films:  0

top 100 films of the decade:  2 (Creed, Black Panther)

most overrated: No overrated films for Coogler. His work is too recent for the TSPDT normal top 1000 consensus list—but all three of them fall on the 21st century list. Fruitvale lands outside the top 20 of 2013 (which I’m fine with).

most underrated :  Creed is #17 for 2015 on the TSPDT consensus 21st century list— Black Panther is #14 for 2018—I think both are underrated.

three films in the archives to date for Coogler, three strong performances from Michael B. Jordan

gem I want to spotlight :  Black Panther

  • The continuation of Coogler’s ascension as one of cinema’s future greats, and the best film in the MCU to date
  • The supporting cast is extremely strong for any film- but this genre especially—Bassett and Whitaker, veterans, are good, but it’s the young cast—led by Jordan and Boseman—that feel incredibly special. If you add Kaluuya (not sure I’d go off this alone but you combine this with Sicario and especially Get Out) it feels like this crop of young talent could be the beginning of something truly special. Boseman is up to the challenge of carrying the film and being the film’s steady hand without getting walked on by louder more interesting supporting characters. But it’s Jordan who is the show here- a volcano and one of the best characters/villains in the genre’s recent history
  • There are really 4-6 characters with nuance and arcs
  • Really beautiful establishing shots, miniature work and world-building—even if it isn’t up there with LOTR or Avatar
  • There are nods to James Bond with the sister as “Q”
  • Coogler is the main show here and puts his stamp on the film in many ways. Of course the nod to Oakland is a great personal touch, but there’s a confidence and flair to the film behind the camera that has been sorely lacking in the MCU. He doesn’t break the mold (a la dark knight or mad max: fury road) but his handprint is on several parts of the movie (of course I wish it were more always) from the floating around the basketball game to bookend the film (tracking shots that absolutely glide and Coogler makes look so easy), to the multiple tracking shots entering the throne room, to the upside down tracking shot (that I couldn’t believe was in a marvel movie) of Jordan
  • I’ve compared it to Cuaron’s Prisoner of Azkaban but I think it’s stronger. It’s similar in that it’s still contained by the world, but there’s flair in it (Coogler’s allowed a little more room I think) that set it apart from the series. I think it’s also very comparable to Nolan’s Batman Begins in many ways
  • Well-earned poignant moments throughout
  • Self-contained and confident in tone—it’s also an intelligent film
  • Unlike nearly every other MCU film there are not real spots where the pacing lags – I wish there were a few more flare-ups of auteurism and muscular, aesthetically-dedicated filmmaking (I”d say it excels within but doesn’t necessarily expand or transcend) but there are no bad patches
  • that upside down shot of Jordan walking to the throne is just bananas- blew me away again.
  • the gambling room in South Korea is a highlight with the lighting as mise-en-scene (a la Soderbergh and Fincher)

the gambling room in South Korea is a highlight with the lighting as mise-en-scene (a la Soderbergh and Fincher)

  • Pops of vibrant colors more in the decor and mise-en-scene more than I remember
  • the M’Baku throne room visual- stunning as well

the M’Baku throne room visual- stunning as well


stylistic innovations/traits:                             

  • The great oner- shot in the fight between Jordan and Gabe Rosados “Leo ‘The Lion’” in Creed – jaw on the floor—Black Panther has one as well- the upside down (world has changed!) tracking shot as Jordan enters the throne room
  • Seems to be a chameleon so far working in (and succeeding artistically) multiple franchises- montages in Creed, establishing shots in Black Panther

Seems to be a chameleon so far working in (and succeeding artistically) multiple franchises- montages in Creed, establishing shots in Black Panther

  • Fluid, smooth camera – Coogler’s oner tracking shot in Creed is the stunner, but it is more than that—he does it in the opening and closing basketball scenes in Black Panther, too. There’s a shot here following Stallone and Jordan into the smaller more homey gym, a shot from the Tijuana locker room going up to the ring—it’s fluid but not shakier verite—it’s choreographed, blocked and there are clean tracks here

Fluid, smooth camera – Coogler’s oner tracking shot in Creed is the stunner


top 10

  1. Creed
  2. Black Panther
  3. Fruitvale Station


By year and grades

2013- Fruitvale Station R
2015- Creed HR/MS
2018- Black Panther HR


*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives